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‘Prey’ is first TV movie in 9 years to receive writing AND directing Emmy nominations

It’s pretty common for limited series to be Emmy-nominated for both writing and directing, as demonstrated by current dual contenders “Beef” and “Fleishman Is in Trouble,” plus “The White Lotus” and the four 2022 shows it knocked out twice. The same cannot be said, however, for TV movies, which compete directly against non-continuing series in the composite Best Movie/Limited Writing and Directing categories. Prior to this year, no telefilm had achieved this nomination combo since 2014, but Hulu’s “Prey” just closed the gap, signaling a return to form for the genre.

“Prey,” which premiered in August 2022, is also gunning for the Best TV Movie Emmy and picked up bids for its sound editing, picture editing and music composition. Set in 18th century North America and featuring a primarily Indigenous cast, it serves as a prequel to the 1987 theatrical horror film “Predator,” which is now the nexus of a seven-part franchise. The streaming movie stars Amber Midthunder (“Legion”; “Reservation Dogs”) as a young Comanche woman who finds herself defending her people from a vicious, human-hunting extraterrestrial.

Dan Trachtenberg, the doubly recognized writer and director of “Prey,” was previously best known for helming the 2016 film “10 Cloverfield Lane” as well as single episodes of “Black Mirror” and “The Boys.” Soon, his resume will grow to include a final-season installment of “Stranger Things.” He shares this writing nomination with Patrick Aison (“Jack Ryan”; “Last Light”).

Before “Prey,” the last TV movies to earn both writing and directing notices were 2014’s “The Normal Heart” and “Sherlock: His Last Vow,” the latter of which ended up being honored for its teleplay. That year’s directing award went to “Fargo,” while “The Normal Heart” triumphed over “Sherlock” in the Best TV Movie category. They were directly preceded by 2013 examples “Behind the Candelabra” and “Phil Spector.”

A total of 28 TV movies that aired between 2000 and 2014 each competed for both of these awards, including dual winners “Door to Door” (2003), “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers” (2005) and “Game Change” (2012). From 2015 to 2022, the only telefilms that showed up in either category were writing nominees “Hello Ladies” (2015), “Black Mirror: San Junipero” (2017) and “Black Mirror: USS Callister” (2018) and directing contenders “Jesus Christ Superstar” (2018), “Paterno” (2018) and “Hamilton” (2021).

“USS Callister” was the last TV movie to achieve a writing victory, while the most recent one to win for its directing but lose for its writing was “Temple Grandin” (2010). This year’s movie/limited teleplay award could also go to streaming films “Fire Island” or “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,” but “Prey” stands as the only such directing hopeful.

If “Prey” ultimately takes both major prizes, it will join a group that consists of “Twelve Angry Men” (1955), “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial” (1956), “Requiem for a Heavyweight” (1957), “Little Moon of Alban” (1959), “The People Next Door” (1969), “The Marcus-Nelson Murders” (1973), “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” (1974), “Love Among the Ruins” (1975) and “Promise” (1987), plus said three 21st century examples.

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